Squeaks and swishes mark hoops’ return

Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv secure first place heading into playoffs • Jerusalem overcomes Rishon

HAPOEL JERUSALEM forward James Feldeine goes to the hoop for two of his 13 points in the Reds’ 84-78 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion at the capital’s Pais Arena in both teams’ first Winner League game back after a long layoff (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
HAPOEL JERUSALEM forward James Feldeine goes to the hoop for two of his 13 points in the Reds’ 84-78 victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion at the capital’s Pais Arena in both teams’ first Winner League game back after a long layoff
Israel basketball action got back under way over the weekend, with Maccabi Tel Aviv walloping Maccabi Ashdod 114-82 at Yad Eliyahu as the yellow-and-blue will head into the Championship Playoffs in first place.
It appeared that Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad didn’t lose a step over the extended break and got off to a hot start to take a 31-13 lead after the first quarter as NBA Draft lottery prospect Deni Avdija propelled the club.
Things continued to go south for Amit Tamir’s side as the head coach, who was making his Ashdod sideline debut, couldn’t find a way to stop or slow down Maccabi’s sharp-shooters in the lopsided conquest.
Avdija led the way with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists while adding a game-high 32 efficiency rating. Tel Aviv’s Tyler Dorsey added 19 points as the guard went 5-of-6 from beyond the arc, Scottie Wilbekin chipped in with 15 points and acting captain Jake Cohen scored 14 points in the win.
Amit Ebo led Ashdod with 16 points in the loss.
“This was our first official game after the break,” said Avdija after his MVP performance. “We still have to work a bit on our defense and get back to how we were doing things before. All in all, I think we looked good and we have some great players. Each one of us knows our place and what we do best. We are a family. We will get back to playing our best as quickly as possible.”
Sfairopoulos also reflected on the victory.
“We controlled the game from the beginning and scored 30 points in the first quarter,” said the Greek coach. “We had a productive day and we moved the ball which resulted in a lot of assists. We had open shots form outside and hit high percentages, so I was happy how we played offensively. Defensively, we didn’t have a bad game and we kept Ashdod to low points in the first and third quarters. In general, I am very happy with our performance.”
Elsewhere, Hapoel Jerusalem disposed of Maccabi Rishon Lezion 84-78.
After a close first half, the Reds used a strong third quarter to pull ahead as Oded Katash’s squad featured five players in double-digit points in the victory. Idan Zalmanson led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds, John Holland added 14 points, James Feldeine chipped in with 13 points and Suleiman Braimoh added 12 points in the win.
D’Angelo Harrison scored 17 points, Alex Hamilton chipped in with 12 points and Zach Hankins dropped 11 points and eight rebounds for Rishon in defeat.
“It was fun to get back out there with the guys,” said Braimoh. “It wasn’t our best basketball, but a win is a win and we will take it. We have to keep getting better and move onto the next game.”
Meanwhile, Hapoel Tel Aviv blew out host Maccabi Haifa 92-72. The Reds jumped out to a 30-18 advantage after the first 10 minutes and never looked back as Ioannis Kastritis’s team took the 20-point victory and denied the Greens a chance to play in the Championship Playoffs.
Jordan Hamilton was the high scorer for the Reds with 21 points, Tomer Ginat – who will head to France next season - added 17 points, Jordan Davis chipped in with 15 points, Talib Zanna notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Yam Madar, who also entered the 2020 NBA Draft, scored 11 points in the win.
Reggie Upshaw was the lone bright light for Haifa with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the defeat.
Also, Hapoel Beersheba defeated Hapoel Holon 85-73 thanks to a dominant fourth quarter that saw the Southern Reds go on a 17-0 run and only allow seven points as Rami Hadar’s squad secured the win.
Three brand-new Beersheba foreigners proved their worth as Evan Bruinsma proved to be unstoppable with 27 points, 12 rebounds and a 36 efficiency rating, Amir Bell added 21 points and Caleb Agada chipped in with 12 points for the victory.
Jimmy Hall led Holon with 20 points and 10 rebounds, Shlomi Harush added 12 points while Jermaine Love and Shavon Coleman scored 10 points apiece in the loss.
Hapoel Eilat drubbed Ness Ziona 103-89 thanks to a 14-0 overtime period to take the win.
After a tight game throughout 40 minutes, the two squads headed into the extra session knotted at 89. But the Red Sea city side received tremendous play from Devon Scott and Ziv Ben Tzvi to secure the victory.
Scott led the way with 26 points, Ben Tzvi clocked in a near triple-double with 13 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds, Rafi Menco chipped in with 18 points and 14 rebounds, Milton Doyle added 13 points and seven steals while Jordan Caroline scored 19 points.
JP Tokoto picked up a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds for Ness Ziona in the hard-fought loss.
Nahariya got by Hapoel Gilboa/Galil 94-76 in the northern squad’s first league win since the beginning of February.
Itay Segev starred for Danny Franco’s team with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Dominic Waters added 18 points, Niv Misgav chipped in with 14 points and newcomer Ivan Almeida recorded a near triple-double with eight points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds in the win.
Michael Young, with 22 points, and Joe Thomasson (17 points) paced Gilboa/Galil in a losing cause.

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